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Fabulous and Easy Beef Stew


Beef stew is an Anglicized name for braised beef. Nobody does braising of meat better than the people of Southern France (Provencal) and Northern Italy – essentially the same geographic region. The flavor base for a braised dish in these regions is a mixture of chopped onions, carrots and celery called a mirepoix in France and a battuto in Italy. The French call their stew a Daube and the Italians call it Stufato. A rose by any other name . . . .

This recipe will serve 4 teenage boys, 6 adults or 8 seniors. Like any stew, you can add stuff. I like this stew served over broad noodles, but you can add some cut up boiling potatoes for the last half-hour of cooking if you prefer spuds. You can also add veggies like zucchini, peppers, peas, turnips, fresh mushrooms etc. Let your imagination loose! Just don’t over cook the veggies. Zucchini takes 10 minutes, peas 5 minutes, etc.

I like to cook the stew on top of the stove because it is easier to stir it while cooking, but you can use a 300 degree oven if you wish. I use an enameled cast iron pot for my stews. Cleanup is easy and the likelihood of burning is minimal.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 oz Dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 lbs Beef chuck or other cut good for braising, cut in 1″ cubes
  • 1 Tbs Butter
  • 1 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Celery stock, chopped
  • 3 Cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup Red wine
  • 1 lb can tomatoes
  • 3 tsp Herbs de Provence, or
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano, thyme and parsley
  • 2 Bay leaves

Directions

Soak the porcini in boiling water for a minimum of 30 minutes. If the porcini left any sand, strain and reserve the liquid.
Dry the meat with paper towels. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and saute in butter and oil until well browned on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan. You will probably have to do this in 2 or 3 batches. Pour off any excess fat.
Add a bit more olive oil and then add the vegetables. Saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the meat and then pour in the red wine. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until wine is nearly evaporated.
Add the tomatoes with the juice and the herbs. Crush the tomatoes with your hands or a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir well to combine.
Cover the stew with aluminum foil that rests directly on the food. (We aim to braise, not steam) Bring to the boil, cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 1.5 hours. Stir every 20 minutes or so.
Roughly chop the porcini (If needed) and add to pot with the soaking liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer 30 minutes.
If you have added potatoes as suggested above, the potato starch will thicken the gravy. If not and you think the gravy is too thin, you can thicken it with a roux, cornstarch or other thickening agent.